In Party for One, Mashable explores single life in 2020, from Carly Rae Jepsen’s iconic single anthems, to the beauty of alone time, and the fascinating history behind the single positivity movement.
When you’re single as an adult, people start to talk. More to the point, they start to ask questions; the older you get, the more entitled strangers and friends feel to ask “Why are you (still) single?”
Now, ideally we progress as a society to the point that being single is perfectly acceptable and this question isn’t inherently awkward, but we’re not there yet, and we should probably focus on climate change and stuff first. So, in the meantime, here are some genuine responses you can offer to the question of why you’re single, whether you want to engage in a little light conversation or simply shut it down and move on.
1. What do you mean by that?
Try not to deliver this response too defensively (guilty), but it’s worth the clarification. Asking someone why they’re single can often feel like a compliment for the person asking. It’s a way of expressing that they think you’re great and thought this was so obvious that you’d have a devoted romantic partner who feels the same.
But sometimes they say it with side-eye and the implication that you’re failing, and they can keep that energy to themselves. Even if they didn’t mean it that way, the question can stem from ingrained values that tie a person’s worth and stability to their relationship status, and we’re better than that!
2. That’s personal
If you do feel a little tetchy, you can shut down this conversation with a clipped delivery of the above p-word. We recommend Kamala Harris VP debate vibes for maximum efficacy (blind them with your smile, repeat the phrase until it sinks in). The only drawback of this response is the inevitable fallout — whoever you’re talking to will report back to others that you are either unapproachable or hiding a very dark secret.
3. That’s not a priority for me currently
This one is honestly airtight. People have and need different things at different times. Sometimes you want to focus on your career or your friends or your mental health, and throwing a relationship into the mix with all that is a tall order! This will also pivot the conversation toward your actual priorities, which you might be more comfortable talking about in-depth.
4. I’m not interested in anyone at the moment
This is a completely legitimate explanation for not being in a relationship that renders any further questions moot because they’ll entail asking you to date someone you don’t like. Pass! That does bring to light that you have to find someone you like, but maybe we don’t need to get into all the nitty gritty. Maybe your conversation partner will offer suggestions, which can’t hurt. That person over there? Sure, why not.
5. Is there something wrong with being single?
Again, watch the tone on this one, but it’s a valid question. The only correct answer is “No,” and if the person says “Yes” you can pretty much call it on that exchange and head to the bar.
If they answer correctly, you can have some compelling discussion. Nothing is wrong with being single, so why do we feel the need to ask people these questions and insist they pair off? What are things you like about being single versus being in a relationship? Did the person you’re talking to have bad experiences being single?
If you’re feeling funky, answer the question outright! I’m single because I’m getting over a serious relationship. Because I have commitment issues. Because dating terrifies me. Because I clean up cute but have a nightmare personality! These are non-specific examples that are totally about you and definitely not about the author.
7. Because I want to be
A succinct summary of many of the above points, “Because I want to be” is a lovely way to shrug off this question like it’s about something as benign as your drink preference (can you tell I envision all of this going down near an open bar?). It’s equal parts empowering and mysterious. However, “Because I want to be” is just a few words off from “Because I said so,” and will probably lead to further questions because it doesn’t feel like much of an explanation. In that case, circle back to any of these other responses. Choose Your Own Adventure!
Whether the question is “Why are you single?” or “How are you single?”— if they throw a “still” in there, it’s knives out, baby. “Still” suggests that there’s a timeline on this thing, and we know that for most people, society has ensured that there is. “Still” contains undercurrents of “You should be married by now” and “What’s taking so long?” and those are questions and comments we won’t answer as politely as this one.
If there’s a “still,” you have permission to raise your eyebrows into your hairline and exit stage left posthaste. If there’s a “still,” crack those knuckles and tell Aunty everything that’s wrong with society insisting young people “settle down” before they’re good and ready. “Still” is a fighting word, and a fight is exactly what it gets.
9. I just am
Listen you’re not a sorcerer and neither is the person asking you this. You can’t always control whether or not you’re single, any more than you can control the sky being cloudy today or James Cameron’s insistence that he’s making more Avatar movies. Some things just happen. This may inadvertently lead to a group discussion of your many dateable virtues (heck yeah) or at worst to prolonged admonition of everything you’re doing wrong that led to your continued singledom. Have we mentioned the bar?
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